Underdogs Denmead give league champions Bush Hill a fright in Hampshire Premier League Cup semi-final
Denmead produced a superb display against defending champions Bush Hill in the semi-finals of the Hampshire Premier League Cup tonight.
Paul Goddard’s men, who were playing in the Meon Valley Sunday League last season, failed to pull off what would have been a seismic result at a rainswept Locks Heath FC.
But they were only beaten 1-0 by a Bush side who blasted 126 goals in only 30 games en route to last season’s HPL title.
Prior to that, it was the lower division underdogs who showed they had the necessary bite to scare their more illustrious opponents.
Indeed, Denmead carved out the better chances and could - no, should - have been in front long before Bush scored their winner on the stroke of half-time.
The only goal came when Martyn Randall fired a low free-kick from the edge of the penalty area against a post, and Perry Harding was quickest to react to force the loose ball in.
Before that, Denmead could have taken a shock fourth minute lead when striker Ryan Harrison broke through only to shoot straight at Stephen Hodder.
It was a similar story not long after when Harrison shrugged off a challenge but, with a clear sight of goal, fired straight at Hodder’s legs.
The Bush keeper then had to back-pedal to tip a Jacob Arend header over his own bar as Denmead - very comfortable in their usual 3-5-2 formation - refused to let Bush’s formidable reputation worry them.
The nearest Bush came to a goal prior to Harding netting was from a similar free-kick just minutes earlier.
On that occasion, keeper Prad Bains had to dive low to keep out an effort from Bush dangerman Mark Barker.
Denmead went close again at the start of the second half, with Hodder palming away an Arend shot.
But that was as close as the HPL Division 1 high-fliers - they are second in their league behind Moneyfields after winning their last six matches - were to come to an equaliser.
Though they continued to show great energy throughout, and though they kept on trying to play a passing game, they never seriously troubled Hodder again.
At the other end, as gaps started to appear, Bush started to enjoy more possession without ever really creating great chances – until the final 10 minutes, that is.
Barker fired a stunning 25-yard effort over Bains and into the net, only to have the ‘goal’ ruled out for offside.
Last season’s 62-goal top scorer was then handed the perfect chance to net his 29th goal in just 18 appearances this term.
Dan Lucas was harshly penalised for a foul, but Barker’s well-struck spot-kick was kept out by Bains diving to his left.
As Bush continued to pile forward on the break, Barker was denied by Bains on three more occasions.
But, in truth, a bigger margin of victory would have been very unfair on Denmead.
This was a real close cup tie, and the final score reflected it.
Denmead’s performance was certainly worthy of the HPL top flight.
With any luck, based on last night’s 90 minutes, they will be gracing it every week in 2020/21.